"I must invent my own systems or else be enslaved by another man's."
William Blake said it, and I firmly believe it especially when it comes to health and fitness. Yet this disclosure may strike you as a bit odd considering this column often offers advice.
But my advice has always come with the understanding that it's nothing more than a starting point, that you need to experiment with the successful strategies of others, tweak them to suit your body's physiology or your personal needs, and create something of your own.
It's best to remember that as the comprehensive, name-your-weight plan continues.
Already discussed last week: the merits of beginning to exercise or increasing your total amount of exercise time before altering any facet of your diet. Why creating a dietary log before changing your diet to gain a general awareness has been elaborated upon, too.
What such a log should reveal is how much of the different macronutrients protein, carbohydrates, and fat you eat. Determining this is far more important than estimating the total calories you consume for two reasons.
First, calorie counting for a whole host of reasons is inexact even if you are willing to weigh foods and measure portions of prepared meals. Second and most importantly not all calories are equal.
This once heretical idea, called nutrient partitioning by some, has been around for at least 30 years, but just recently did a panel convened by the American Society of Nutrition and the International Life Sciences Institute officially declare that the old standby of "3,500 calories equals a pound" to be wrong.
The basic premise of nutrient partitioning is easy follow. Protein and complex carbohydrates require more digestion than simple carbs or fat and do not get stored as body fat as readily. As a result of the extra digestion and the difficulty with body fat storage, more heat is created and energy lost in transforming these nutrients.
Simplified, a 450-calorie breakfast featuring an egg-white omelet and a high-fiber cereal may only provide 350 calories of potential energy for your body to use. A 450-calorie breakfast featuring a cappuccino, a doughnut, and orange juice, however, supplies close to the original 450.
By increasing the percentage of protein and complex carbs in your diet while lowering the percentage of simple carbs and fat, you can actually experience weight loss without eating fewer calories or the sensation of eating less and starving yourself. The longer digestion time for protein and complex carbs account for this. (Note: Dietary fat also keeps you feeling fuller longer, but contains 225 percent more calories per gram.)
For those suspicious souls, consider the plethora of recent studies that have found high-protein diets work better for weight loss.
A study performed at the Universities of Northwestern and Minnesota and published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior earlier this year typifies what researchers are finding. This study of 1,824 women aged 40 to 60 determined that applying one element of nutrient partitioning, increasing protein consumption, helped weight loss and also helped to keep the weight from returning.
In short, the first and most important step in changing your diet is changing its composition, not decreasing calories.
As you begin to reduce your use of processed foods most are loaded with added sugars and use enriched flour, two primary sources of simple carbs consider your exercise regiment. Most people can get motivated to exercise for a specific goal, such as getting into a certain dress size for a special occasion, but many stop exercising after that.
If you fall into this category of productive-but-only-periodic exercise, here's what you need to do: get more mentally engaged.
This may require a change in routine or even taking up a new sport, but the key to long-term exercise is viewing each workout as part of a grand plan. Those who simply see each workout as another 30-minute block of health insurance to be endured tend to let the policy lapse sooner or later.
Those who want to improve at a sport, improve the look of a certain body part or the entire body or rehabilitate an old injury, however, often immerse themselves so deeply into the health-and-fitness lifestyle that it becomes such a part of them that they couldn't imagine not exercising.
It's your job to find an activity that makes you feel that way.
A good friend of mine, for instance, has recently cut back on the amount of time he rides bicycle, yet he has managed to remain in shape, and in certain ways improve his fitness. As he ages, he knows he's losing muscle in his upper body, that that is not a good thing, and that riding a bike does little to remedy that.
He does not enjoy lifting weights, however.
His solution? He always wanted to try kayaking, so he borrowed a buddy's, found it fun, and bought one of his own. Now, he's now just as likely to spend time paddling in the water as pedaling on the road.
If you're willing to experiment like that with both your exercise and diet, you'll eventually be able to do this article's headline: name your weight.